2017 Earth Day – 18Hr

After doing a couple of these adventure races, you would think we’d know what the hell we were doing.  But, that wasn’t the case during the 2017 Earth Day 18 Hour Adventure Race by Florida Xtreme.  Sure, we ended up 3rd overall, but that’s due to a mispunch by two kickass teams that beat us to the finish by over an hour and a half.  They were so fast that they were eating breakfast at Waffle House while we were still out on the course dreaming of Waffle House.

We’ve never claimed to be fast, or good, but man that’s disheartening.  Anyway, let’s dig into this cheeseball…

Maps & Stuff

If you’re looking for an adventure race that is going to take you to some wild and beautiful locations, with some fun twists and turns thrown in, then look no further than one directed by Craig Sheriff.  Craig does a great job of hunting out cool locations and integrating them into a challenging course.  

Bike 1

For us, the misadventures began instantly.  The race started off with a short foot sprint and then a dash to find two CPs along the East Cadillac Trail.  We were 3rd, just behind ARGeorgia and Off the Grid Racing.  We hit the twisting single track, nailing the first CP and then completely blew by CP2.  It seems that when I transcribed the location of CP2, I put it too far east.  We saw a control, but thought it was a sport race CP and didn’t even stop to check it.  Oops.  We then had to backtrack to the control as 6-8 teams flew by.

Our next big mess up was at CP7.  I guess while I was busy shoving Snickers in my pie-hole, I must have missed where Fern trail branched off from the dirt road and jumped back into the woods.  Had I seen the fork, we would have quickly found the small wooden bridge we were looking for and been on our merry way.

Instead, we got to spend 15 minutes scooting across a gas pipeline to cross a creek and look for a CP that was not there.  The cool thing is that we were so sure we were in the right place we did it twice, until Bill Dean and his brother rode by and told us we were idiots for looking in the wrong location.  Looking at my map now, it’s easy to see that we overshot the location.  At the time, not so much.  Having screwed up two controls in less than two hours, we were not off to a good start and were probably 12th or 13th place by now.

One of the really cool places on the bike section was a visit to the Florida State Capitol building.

One of the not so cool things is we had to climb 22 stories to reach the CP at the top.

Actually it was really cool and I don’t know how Craig ever got it approved by the state government.  But I’m glad he did.

Calves ablaze, we descended the stairs and biked off toward the Tallahassee Museum.  Along the way, we biked past the FSU stadium and then had to find a CP in the Munson Slough.  Bill and his brother were kind enough to give us a hand getting our bikes down, and we returned the favor to them.

At the Tallahassee Museum, we got to experience our first zip line ever.  The sun was setting as we climbed obstacles and soared through the trees.  It was an incredible experience that I know all of the racers enjoyed.  We can’t wait to come back with our kids and do it again.

The only bad part was when Ana decided to do some product testing for Lupine by tossing her headlamp from the top of one of the platforms, into the swamp below.  Forty feet up and surrounded by swamp water, there was no way down and no way to recover the light.  Lucky for us though, she dropped her headlamp into the water at a canoe checkpoint, CP14.  Our only chance at recovering the light was to canoe to that control and search for it later that night.

Boat 1

Night was rapidly approaching and the first order of business was to go straight to CP14 (Near Zip Line) and try to recover our headlamp.  After a quick search, we found it in about 2 feet of water and it still worked perfectly.  I love Lupine.  What I don’t love is canoeing in a swamp at night without a light!

I wish we had taken more photos during the race to better show you what it was like at night, but we were playing catch up the whole time and photos were the last things on our minds.  Just imagine that you are surrounded by cypress trees that are all identical and you can’t make out the shoreline because it is so dark.  No matter which way you looked, everything looked the same.   It was like a bad text-based video game from the 80’s.

You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…

>Go North

You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…

>Go North

You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…

>Go East

You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…

>Go North

You are in a cypress swamp at night surrounded by identical trees…

AAaarrrgghhhh!

It was eerily beautiful.  Our headlamps created a perfect reflection of the cypress trees on the black water as we paddled around the labyrinth of trees.  As we were looking for CP20 (Distinct Cypress) we heard this voice in the darkness…Hello?

Lionel?  Adele?  Nope, it was Mac Kelly from Chub Solo.  His headlamp had gone out and he was drifting in the darkness.  How he didn’t freak out, I don’t know.  We loaned him one of our lights and said he could either give it back to us at the end of the race or tag along with us.  He decided to tag along…silly guy.  We got to enjoy his company and he got to enjoy getting lost in the woods with us.

When we couldn’t locate CP20 (Distinct Cypress) we ended up backtracking to the previous control to try to follow the bearing again.  It seemed like it was going to take at least two attempts to find every control, and I was beginning to feel as if we would never get out of that swamp.

For CP21, we had to follow pink streamers down a small creek to locate a pond.  But the creek ended up turning into nothing but a mucky “trail”, through which we portaged our canoes.  And thank goodness we took our canoes because once we finally got to the pond, there was no way we were wading across a chest-deep pond in the middle of the night.  Some teams did, but then some teams are just flippin’crazy!

Another interesting feature that the race director led us to was a sunken car in the middle of the swamp.  Most likely a relic of the prohibition era, this was really cool to come across at night.

Foot 1

Finishing the paddle took us forever, and it was well into the night when we started our first foot section.  Craig had warned us that the foot section was going to be hard.  He also suggested we attempt it in reverse order.  We didn’t listen…we were stupid.

The first two controls were along trails and easy enough to find, but then it all went downhill.  By the time we got to CP26 (West Side of Bradford Brook) we had somehow caught up with ARGeorgia, Off the Grid Racing, and Florida Xtreme.  It seems the paddle and foot section were giving lots of teams problems.

Somewhere prior to CP27, we met up with Ron Eaglin, “The Human Compass” and his team, Florida Xtreme.  Since we were all walking at this point, we ended up finding CPs 27 & 28 together.  I don’t really like following other teams to controls, because I don’t feel like I learn anything that way, so we broke away from Florida Xtreme going towards CP29.  Not the wisest of choices.  Ron is a really good navigator and staying with them would have ensured we found the remaining controls quickly.

Instead we went on a 40 minute swamp stomp.  On the map, CP29 looks straight forward.  From CP28, shoot southwest until you hit the stream and follow it south until it forks…easy peasy.  Except that the creek turned into a swamp and we never could locate the fork.  We worked our way south down the creek and eventually gave up and bailed east to the powerlines.

To reattack, we headed northwest towards the powerline/creek intersection, pace counted southeast until we hit the powerline/trail intersection and headed straight west and found the control without any problems.  Sounds easy now.  Forty minutes wasted and we never saw Florida Xtreme, ARGeorgia, or Off the Grid Racing again.

The rest of the foot controls were straight forward, with many of them being in sinks.

Boat1 – Return

When we finished up Foot1, we had to return to the boat and then paddle back to the Boat TA, where we had originally launched.  Todd was working the boat nav and doing a great job, Ana was in the front being the motor, and I was in the back smashing palm-sized spiders before they crawled up Todd’s leg.  Todd loves spiders…and ticks.  He really loves ticks.

Foot 2

Once again, I was leading the nav and doing a freakingly stellar job of it.  We were jogging along an old road to CP39, because the clue was, “Along an Old Road.”  However, when the road ended and we didn’t find the control, I wasn’t surprised given the way the night was going.  The old road intersected with a new road.  So, we turned around and pace counted to where the control should be.  But, there was no control.  We looked in the woods where we thought the control should be, but nope, no control.  So, back up to the intersection to see if there was another old road that ran parallel to the one we were on.  I didn’t see one, so back down the old road we went.  When we got to the same spot again, I said screw it, I’m heading east until we hit the lake.  And that’s when I found another road running parallel to the one we were on.  And you know what was along that parallel road.  Yep, the control.  Good times.  

We had a couple of more controls on this section, and one of them had us pick up a Natural Ice can left behind by someone who thought it would be cool to drink Natural Ice and litter.  Neither of which is cool.  I felt good cleaning up a little piece of the forest, I felt bad sucking at navigation all night.  Perhaps a Natty Light or two would have helped.  It definitely wouldn’t have hurt by this point.

Bike 3

Finally done with the foot sections, it was time to climb back on the bikes, except that Ana’s tire was completely flat.  It seems her bike maintainer was a little too lazy to add more anti-leak goop to her tires before the race.  She probably would have fired the bum by now if he wasn’t so damn sexy in bike shorts.  A couple of blasts of compressed air and a prayer that it would hold together for 3 hours, and we were off.

CP43 had us bushwhack 35 meters into a tree line from a wooden fence along the St. Marks Historic Railroad Trail which put us nearly into someone’s backyard.  Pitch black, headlamps on, dogs barking their heads off and some dude yelling, “What the hell is going on out here!”  I’m just praying, “Oh dear Lord, please don’t let that man release his dogs because I am stuck in these briers and my legs are too cramped to run.”  Todd kept calling out, “Sir, we are NOT trying to get to your house.  We are in a race and looking for a flag.  We are NOT coming onto your property”.  Ever try to explain adventure racing to someone?  Try explaining it to someone who thinks you’re trying to sneak onto their property at night, while their dogs are going nuts.  Oh, the fun we have!

Not finding the flag, and not wanting to get shot, we got the bright idea to see if there was another wooden fence just up the trail…which, of course, there was.  And wouldn’t you know, there was a flag 35 meters in the tree line, just like the clue said.

Ana’s knee was absolutely killing her by now, and she was reduced to pedaling with one leg.  I didn’t know if she was going to be able to manage the hills of Tallahassee, much less the final single track section.  None of us had a towline, so we slowly worked our way towards the finish, picking up CP’s along the way and waiting for teams to pass us before we could finish.  I think it would have absolutely crushed her to have another team pass us on the bike.  But, if they had, it would have been due to my bad navigation throughout the night, not her bad knee.

We grinded it back to the Cadillac Trail and pushed through the final single track section.  I could hear Ana wince on every pedal stroke, but we knew if we could just get onto the canoe we’d have a good chance of retaining our position.

Boat 2

The final paddle was a 2 hour push through lily pad covered waterways.  I was unsure when the official race time was over, so we paddled as hard as we could to try to finish by 10AM.  Todd was doing a great job of navigating us through the mess.  I don’t think we made a single navigational error.

We did end up blowing by CP55 (on an old dock) and having to turn around to find it.  I’d like to think it was because our blazing paddles had us going so fast.  Truth is, it was because all of us were looking towards the shoreline…you know the place where most old docks are.  We’re all looking off to the right side of the boat as we slowly cruise past the flag on our left.

“See anything over there?”

“Nope.” Eyeballs straining to see across to the shoreline where old docks are supposed to be.

“Keep looking, it should be right here.”

“Nope, don’t see anything yet.”

As our boat slowly drifts by the damn flag that is within arm’s reach on the left side of the canoe.

Arms and back exhausted, we finally finished circumnavigating the Lafayette Heritage Paddle trail, collecting all of the CPs, and crawling to the finish just before 10AM. 

Conclusion

This was an all-around tough race that had us in race salvage mode the entire time.  My navigation was probably the worst it has ever been.  However, I couldn’t be more proud of the way the team held together and kept racing.  We weren’t the fastest by a long shot.  But, I feel like we kept pushing and stayed in race mode even when things got sucky.  Our race results ended up being much better than we expected.  Many teams fought hard and were amazingly fast the entire time.  Ron and Florida Xtreme ended up in 1st, which is no surprise for anyone that has raced against Ron.  Congratulations to his team on the win!

A big thanks to Ana and Todd for keeping me in the race and pushing the entire time.  We’re definitely not the fastest, but there’s no one I’d rather race with.

As always, this was another great Florida Xtreme race and we can’t thank Craig, John, and all the volunteers for the work they put into making this a success.  The course was top-notch and the zip lining was amazing.  A big thanks to the Tallahassee Museum for putting up with 50 stinky racers tromping around their property.

As always, we greatly appreciate those that have chosen to support our team.  Please take a second and check out their gear.  If we’re using it, it’s because we like it.

2016 – Florida State Championship (Turkey Burn)

Team Disoriented wins one!

Wekiwa Springs State Park was the location of the 2016 Florida State Championship AKA Turkey Burn 12Hr Adventure Race.  Dave Brault and Jim Feudner teamed up to design another amazing race that pushed all the teams for everything they were worth.  This was our first time at the Turkey Burn.  Unfortunately, we were missing our #GetRad guy, Stephen, who was off doing stuff like getting married, adopting a dog, and working his ass off over in Europe…

Bier & Bratwurst?

…or not.

Bike 1 (~8 miles)

For the 4AM race start, Dave led the teams to the bottom of a sugar sand covered jeep trail.  At go, we put on our best hardcore faces and pedaled for everything we were worth, until we passed the volunteer snapping photos 20 feet ahead.  Once safely past, my race face changed to Mr. Huff and Puff and I concentrated on staying upright and not hyperventilating as my back tire churned up sand.  In front of us, Good ‘Nuff kicked up a cloud of sugar sand as they powered through, their taillights vanishing in the darkness.  I have words for moments like that…special words.

This section had 4 CPs that we had to get in order, and as much as we wanted to pull away from the other teams, they were having none of it.  Behind us was a steady stream of lights with mere seconds between teams.  This was no time to screw up and we cleared the section quickly, racing back to the Main TA where we had our first special test, making S’mores at a campfire.  Pretty sweet!

Foot 1 (~3.5 miles)

The start of Foot 1 presented us with our first strategic decision.  We could either do the foot section while carrying our paddle gear, or clear the foot section and then go back to the Main TA to get our paddle gear before heading off to the canoe section.  We decided to carry all of our paddle gear and raced out of the TA.  Then we realized that they probably had PFDs at the canoes and it would be smarter to not carry ours.  We ran back to the Main TA, dropped our PFDs, and raced out of there only to realize we forgot to grab extra water for the 4 hour canoe section.  Crappy, crappy transition.  Luckily, I helped us recover by totally screwing up the first checkpoint on the foot section.  Why stay in second place when 5th is much more fun.

Y’all ready for a pro tip?  Here it is.  The scale on an O-Course map is probably different than the scale on a 1:24000 map.  You see, CP5 was only about 200 meters from the bend in the road if you use the right scale.  Use the wrong scale and it looks more like 350 meters.  It’s pretty stinking hard to find a little orange and white flag when your 150 meters past it, at night, in the woods.  What’s really cool is if you can watch the headlights of other teams pass you as you struggle in vain to find the CP.  I have plenty of these pro tips, ya just gotta ask.

Boat (~12 miles)

The canoe along the Wekiva river was beautiful.  The canoe along the backwater channels was hell.  Of course, all of the CPs were along the backwater channels.  According to many race directors, the word “canoe” is Native American for “hunk of fiberglass you push and pull over many downed trees.”  Todd was nailing the nav on this section as we struggled to regain the time we lost on the previous foot section.

view-from-otter-camp

After 3.5 hours of paddling and getting soaked to our waist from jumping in and out of the water, we were freezing and just wanted to get off the canoe.  Once we landed, we ran back to the Main TA on numb feet and chattering teeth.  It took the entire 15 minute run back for us to warm up.

wekiwa-springs_contest_cortney-busscher_kayak-adventure-at-wakiwa-spring

Bike 2 (~12 miles)

Boom! Lookin’ Pro! Long enough to take the photo anyway.

This section had us going in a clockwise direction to collect the CPs in order.  Somewhere close to CP24 we ran into Ron, Courtney and Erik from Lost Cause.  It was the first time we had seen another team since the paddle section.  We ventured to CP24 and CP25 together, and after punching CP25 away they all flew like the down of a thistle.  What the hell does that mean?!  Seriously!  I’ve heard that line for 44 years and still have no clue what it means…down of a thistle…whatever.

In more tortoise-like fashion we raced back to the Main TA and almost got ran over by Good ‘Nuff as they were flying up to CP25.  They are crazy fast!

Foot 2 (~7.5 miles)

Foot 2 is where the strategy started to come in.  We were clearing the course up to this point.  But, we knew that we wouldn’t be able to clear the entire course and doubted any other team would either.  So, we had to make decisions to maximize our points.  Todd and I debated two far away CPs.  We estimated it would take us 30-40 minutes to grab them both and get back.  I wanted to get them.  Todd wanted to leave them and save our legs for the last foot section.   In the end, I agreed with Todd and it ended up being a wise move.  Mentally, it is hard to drop any points when you’re clearing a course, but who can resist Todd’s Cheesy McPleasy smile?

Cheesy McPleasy – You can’t resist me!

Bike 3 (~11 miles)

Not much to say on this section.  I have little chicken legs and knew we wouldn’t be able to get many bike points, so we didn’t try.  With the sugar sand trails that suck the life out of you, we knew we’d end up killing ourselves for just a few points when there were more to get on foot.  Instead, we raced to get the first easy bike CP and then headed right back to the Main TA and transitioned to foot.

 

Foot 3 (~4.5 miles)

The final foot was the make or break section.  We knew we had to clear it and get back as quickly as we could to have any chance of winning.  There wasn’t any room for errors here and we tried to be as solid as we could with the navigation.  With Ana pace counting and Todd spotting CPs with his super x-ray vision, we cleared this section efficiently.  One final push to the Main TA and we finished after 11:31:00 of solid racing.

There is this feeling you get in your gut when you get to the finish and realize you left 30 minutes and a whole bunch of checkpoints out on the course.  It is not a pleasant feeling.  It’s more like that feeling you get the day after you eat bad sushi.  You have no idea what the other teams got and your mind replays the whole race and every point you left out there.  Should we have gotten those two far checkpoints?  Could we have picked up one more on the bike?  30 minutes is an eternity to wait.

In the end it turned out great.  We tied Lost Cause on points but won on time.  Only thing left to do was eat some delicious spaghetti, check Todd over for ticks, pack up, and drive the 6 hours back home.

As always, a big thanks to Dave, Jim, and all of the volunteers that made this event awesome!  There is nothing better than racing hard with great friends out in the beautiful woods of Florida.  This is why we do it:

 

 

2016 USARA National Championship

5AM boys!  Time to get up and butter the biscuits!

You know there is nothing better than crawling out of a warm bed to go slap cold lube on your butt cheeks and stuff them into a pair of spandex cycling shorts.  But, when you’re getting ready to race 30 hours at the USARA National Championship, that’s how you get rad.  I wonder if this is how Team Adventure Medical Kits and Tecnu roll out of bed…I doubt it.

We staggered into the Savannah Rapids Convention Center where we were given a map the size of a bed sheet, a list of 36 UTM coordinates to plot, and an hour and a half to get our crap figured out before loading buses and heading off to the starting line.  Lucky for us we found a little corner of a fish cleaning station to do our map work.  We never got our crap figured out, but we were pretty good at faking it.

Prologue

After a short bus ride to Wildwood Park, we were given a final pre-race briefing and then it was game on.

The prologue consisted of grabbing 12 CPs around the International Disc Golf Center.  180+racers converging on the first CP led to some interesting last second route choices by many teams.  Stephen was leading the nav on this section and we ended up clearing it quickly and with no issues.

Boat 1

The prologue ended up spreading out…well…no one really.  Teams were all over the place, scrambling to launch canoes and get on the water as quickly as possible.

14715093_1135820296453713_4949419821775378042_o

Todd, always in full race mode, decided this was the perfect time for him to capture some epic videos of the race.  Or, as I like to call it,  bailing out on paddling…

But, who can blame him for capturing a video of this epic 4.5 hour paddling section.  Oh, did I say 1 video…oh no, I meant 2 videos.  Todd still not paddling…

Or was that three slacker sessions, Uh I mean totally rad video captures.  Anyone want to guess whose limp paddle that is?

Actually, Todd, AKA “Limp Paddle” did awesome navigating the canoe section and we cleared this section quickly.  And by quickly I mean 50 minutes slower than the fastest 3 teams.  If I could only think of a way to make a three man kayak go faster…hmmm…I’ll have to ponder that one.

Bike 1

On to the bikes, and a quick ride over to Mistletoe State Park.  We were racing neck and neck with our Florida compadres, Good ‘Nuff and Off the Grid Racing until I decided we should pick up CP14.  Totally awesome move, until Shane Hagerman (bad ass adventure racer on team Happy Mutant Main Nerve) reminded us that CP14 could only be gotten on foot and not on bike.  Oh yeah, we got them rules and stuff we should pay attention to.

We raced off along Rock Dam Trail to the transition area, and I was lucky enough to impale myself on the only piece of rebar along Gawd Damn Trail, I mean Rock Dam Trail.  Red Badge of Courage earned and, more importantly, photographed.  I was feeling manly and ready to rock (after a short break, a few snacks, and maybe a hug or two from Stephen that is).

Trek 1

Now on foot, we could get CP14.  We could also get CP13 and CP15 according to the rule sheet that we started reading.  Now, if we could only read a map.  That’s something that could come in handy.  We decided to poke around CP13 for awhile.  These CPs can be kinda skittish you know, and you don’t want to just go blasting towards them.  Instead, you kinda want to circle around them a few times, picking out just the proper way to approach them.  We’ve been to USARA Nationals, we know these things.

Bike back to Wildwood

After we cleared the foot section, we had to bike back to Wildwood Park.  You would think that biking back the same way that we came in would be easy.  You’d think that.  Yep, so would we.  For the sake of a short race report, let’s just imagine a quick bike ride back to Wildwood without me deciding to try a new path we hadn’t been on before.  And let’s just imagine that the new path led exactly where we thought it would, rather than meandering off into the never ending wilderness…yeah, that’s a nice thought, let’s go with it.

The good news is we found our way to Wildwood and we also found one of the greatest inventions ever made by man…

Trek 2

By now it was dark.  We were hopped up on Coke and ready to start our second O-course.  We were actually doing pretty well on this section until we ran into CP20.  We were doing a straight bearing shot from 21 to 20 and you can see how close we were to the control, but we just didn’t see it.  So, we headed northeast to the shoreline, dropped down to find the inlet and shot another bearing past 20.  We knew the CP had to be somewhere between those intersecting bearing and finally found it within 10 feet from where we originally were.  Bummer!

The cool thing though is that we ran into another set of Florida adventure racers, 3 Shades of Gray out of Pensacola, FL.  Awesome set of guys who we enjoyed running with for a little while.  I’ll say it again, the best part of adventure racing is meeting all of the really cool people out on the course.  We hope to see you guys at the FLX Adventures Earth Day AR in Tallahassee next year.

Bike to Final Paddle

You know what helps to keep your bike moving?  Pedals!  Yep, all the cool kids have them now…they’re kind of a big deal.  You know what’s not cool?  Riding Bartram’s Trail for 3 hours on this.

But, in Adventure Racing, things can always be worse.  Like having your rear hub explode on you and then having to race with your bike on your back.  Kudos to Kevin Tobin of Team ASR – Raging Burritos.  First rate dude, first rate!

Trek 3 – Clarks Hill Dam

We finally made it to Clarks Hill Dam for the final O-course.  This section would prove to be challenging for many teams.  While pros like WEDALI would clear this section in 1:50:20, us mere mortals would take 3:43:55.  Of course, I’m sure WEDALI didn’t have the pleasure of meeting the convenience store operator who told us that the land owner next door would shoot us if we ended up on his property.  Now that’s useful information.

After checking every reentrant in this area twice, we finally cleared the section and moved on to the final paddle section, tired and a little hungry #DennysGrandSlam.

Paddle 2 – Final Paddle

We hit the final paddle section just before day break and if there is anything that will put you to sleep quicker than reading this race report, it’s paddling on a dark, flat river after 21 hours of racing.  While most experts may think that canoes are meant for the water, adventure race directors know that canoes are best lugged around on foot…especially uphill.  The final Portage section…uh I mean Paddle section to the Savannah Rapids Visitor Center was beautiful.  At least they didn’t make us paddle upstream.  Todd nailed the nav on this section and I think he even paddled once or twice, between naps of course.

Final Bike:

Only 3 CPs were left in the race, and we were excited that we had cleared the course up to this point.  With Florida Xtreme right behind us, and Off the Grid out in front, the race was still on.  The race took us along the Augusta Canal Trail with a short detour along the Savannah Mountain Bike Trail and to a final CP at the end of the path.

Right after punching the final CP, we passed Off the Grid going to the final CP.  Somehow we had managed to get in front of them.  Now, the race was really on.  Those guys are strong bikers and I knew we’d have to pedal our tails off not to be passed just before the finish line.  So, we formed a pace line and cranked it out as hard as we could.  Stephen still had his broken pedal and how he managed to hang on to our rear wheel for the final sprint finish, I don’t know.  But he did and Todd and I couldn’t have been prouder.

A final sprint to the finish to claim 4th Place Open Division was an awesome way to end the race.

Conclusion

USARA Nationals is always a great race with amazing competitors.  The winning team, Adventure Medical Kits, cleared the course in 17:24:38 hours, compared to our time of…well now there’s really no need to compare finish times is there?  Actually, we cleared the course in 26:51:44 Putting us 19th overall.  The top racers in the coed and the master’s divisions are absolutely amazing athletes and we’re just thrilled that we get to participate in this race alongside of them.

USARA hosted an awesome after party where we got to kick back with our fellow competitors and the new friends we met while consuming large quantities of beer…I mean exercising Calorie Replacement Therapy.  Good times had all around and we can’t wait to be back next year.  A heartfelt thank you to those that have supported our meager efforts:

Todd and Stephen, Rock Stars as always.  Thanks for not abandoning me out in the woods.

And to those that actually read these verbose postings, thank you!  I hope you get some enjoyment out of them…you’re definitely not going to learn anything from them.  If you get a chance, please like our Facebook page or comment below.  We love to hear from other racers and it helps feed my ego.

Coosa River Challenge XIV

“1…2…3…Jump!” Ana yells.

Jump?  Yeah, you just hold on one stinkin’ second there little lady.

This is no “jump” this is a plummet into an abyss and I’m not sure I’m mentally prepared to plunge my body over the edge just yet.

“Oh my gosh, you didn’t jump?!” Ana says “1…2…3…Jump!  Do it!”

“But, I don’t wanna jump!” I whine before hurling myself over the edge.  I don’t like heights, I never have.  I probably never will.  But, adventure racing has a way of taking you outside of your comfort zone and making you do things you wouldn’t normally do for the sake of your team.

Eventually, I splash into the Coosa River below and after checking that my Man Card is still in my back pocket, we press on with the race.

Pre-race:

Way back in 2014, when we just started adventure racing, we did the Coosa River Challenge and had an absolute blast.  We weren’t able to make it back in 2015, but were extremely excited that we would make it in ’16.  The Coosa River Challenge is more than just a race, it’s an event.  It all starts with a pre-race party at Coosa River Adventures the night before.  Racers are treated to a delicious meal provided by the Wind Creek Casino & Hotel, an open keg of beer (Score!), and live entertainment by Sam Marsal.  But, don’t let the party atmosphere fool you.  While some come just for the challenge of completing the race, there are plenty of competitive athletes ready to rock the course in the morning.

Foot 1:

The race starts at the Swayback Bridge Trailhead, a 12-mile network of gnarly single track maintained by the Trail of Legends Association.  230+ competitors started off trail running a short section of switchbacks and hills, making their way to the top of Jordan dam and then returning to the start location to transition to bikes.  

Bike 1:

We quickly transitioned to bikes, shoving down a fig bar and a bottle of Skratch before riding off.  I didn’t want to bonk again like I did at the Cauldron, so we took a little time to get some fluids and food in us.  I don’t like heights, Ana doesn’t like single track.  It’s just the way things work for us.  But, today was the day Ana decided to fly.  Two years ago we struggled to make it up the climbs, but this time she was powering the ups and bombing the downhill sections.  Maybe she had the Eye of the Tiger, maybe I spiked her Skratch with cocaine…I’m not saying.  But I was impressed.

eye-of-the

Foot 2:

Back to the start, we transitioned to foot and made a quick dash to the base of Jordan Dam for an orienteering challenge.  For this section we had to answer a few questions on compass use and plot a couple of bearings.  In 2014 there wasn’t an orienteering section and I was happy to see that it was back for this year.  For us, orienteering is one of the reasons we love adventure racing.

Boat:

The rest of the race was down the Coosa River with stops along the way to do certain challenges.  The first challenge was to swim our kayak across the river.  If there is a good way to swim a kayak across a river, please post it in the comment section below.  Call me kooky, but I’m pretty sure man didn’t create a kayak so that he could hang on to the outside of it and swim it across a river.  I have never felt so inept in my life!  I tried the front crawl.  I tried the side stroke, I tried holding on to the back and just kicking.  The only thing that worked for me was letting Ana swim it across.  That made it a lot easier.

Once Ana, I mean we, swam the kayak across the river we had to execute the leap of death.  From atop a 40 foot rock, we had to jump into the Coosa River below.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t 40 feet, but it was high.  Higher than it was 2 years ago, and higher than in my nightmares of the week leading up to the race.  Needless to say, we did make the jump and I’m alive and I’m pretty thankful for that.

After the rock jump, we got to paddle our boats back to the launch location where we would do the 85 foot rappel.  This was my favorite part, mainly because I didn’t have to do it.  Look, it’s my job to kill all the spiders and roaches.  Ana’s job is to do the high, scary stuff and not tell my buddies that I’m too chicken to do it.  Ana flew down the rope like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.  It was beautiful to watch, especially with both feet on solid earth.

Back on the boats, we were now in full paddle mode, except that the paddles were more like dumbbells with blades on the end.  Seriously, I think they were made out of driveshafts they weighed so much.  We cruised down to Dead Beaver Island, a perfect place to camp out, drink a few cases of beer, and make 200+ people crawl through a pipe that’s been 90% submerged in muddy water. Lucky for us, they left just enough room at the top of the pipe to breathe…that is if you’re a freakin’ dolphin with a hole in the top of your head.  For us normal humans, not so easy.

After Dead Beaver Island, we made the run down to Moccasin Gap, a Class III rapid and the largest rapid on the Coosa.  We didn’t have any issues with this one and were starting to feel pretty proud of ourselves.  That is until we hit Big House Rapids.
moccasin-gap

Let’s go left around this rock…

No, no let’s go right!

Ah $hit! Let’s see if we can go over it!

So, there we sat pinned atop some rock in the middle of the river as our good friend Kaitlin comes cruising past.  Why is it that people always arrive just when you’re screwing up?

You need help?

Nah, we got this.  Just wanted to stop for a bite to eat.

We worked ourselves free and headed off to Corn Creek Park for a short orienteering course where we quickly grabbed 3 checkpoints and then headed back onto the water.  We had another 1.5 miles of paddling before the final takeout at Coosa River Adventures.  And, after three and a half hours of solid racing what I really, really wanted to do was a few air squats and burpees.  How about a punch in the gut? Can I get one of those too, please?

Ana could now smell the end of the race…or was that me.  Whatever.  She knew it was close by and after scraping her amazingly handsome husband off the ground, she was ready for the final sprint to the finish.  

“Come on!  This is it!  This is it!”, she yelled.

We burst out of the recently cut trail near Coosa River Adventures and saw our old teammate, Stu, waiting to run the final leg of the race with us.  What a fantastic surprise!  A mad dash through Gold Star Park and we finished, 1st place Co-ed.

finish

We celebrated with peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and the most awesome cookies ever.  Seriously, who made those cookies?!  They were delicious and in a convenient Ziploc bag of 20.  We were supposed to take a bag each, right?

Conclusion

Once again the Coosa River Challenge was awesome.  The race director, Therese Carter, always does an amazing job of putting together a top-notch event.  I don’t know how she does it every year, or where she finds her amazing volunteers.  Maybe she pays them in cookies.  Regardless, I’m not asking questions, I just know we’ll be back as often as we can!  Thanks everyone it really was amazingly fun.

team

Oh, and one last comment.  Post-race, some buddies and I hit one of the race sponsors, Los Mayas Mexican Restaurant.  The food was excellent and we ended up ordering so much of it that they had to move us to another table because ours was too small to hold all the plates.  Stinky, sweaty, middle-aged men in spandex pants sucking down burritos.  Now that’s a mental image nobody wants.

 

From First Place to First Loser

Who wouldn’t want to race 36 hours straight in Florida, in September.  What’s not to love about asphalt melting sun pushing temperatures well into the 90’s while you and your team run around in spandex suits sucking hot water out of a plastic straw connected to your backpack.  That, my friends is the definition of fun.  And if you can add in getting lost, dehydration, and the overwhelming desire to puke, well you’ve hit the jackpot and pushed yourself into euphoria.

Off the Grid Racing race directors Erik, Jeanette, and Craig put together a completely new course for us around beautiful Marianna, Florida.  And when I say beautiful, I mean crystal clear springs, limestone outcroppings, numerous caverns, natural sinks and a ton of history and old Florida charm.  For the adventurer, or eco-tourist, Marianna needs to be on your list…just maybe in October or November when the weather is cooler.

Race Maps and Clue Sheet

Google Share Drive with all Maps

Prologue

The race started at midnight with a foot section from Merritt’s Mill Pond.  Starting a race has always been a problem for us, mainly because there are so many teams heading off in different directions and the pace is always excessively fast.  Not knowing the area, we headed off in one direction along with Ron and his team, FLX Adventures.  But, after hopping a fence and running into thick brush, we decided to take a different route.  We floundered for a few minutes but recovered and started to tick off CPs.  It seemed that many CPs centered on a pump house and by using this as our anchor point, we made short work of this section.

FLX Adventures

One of the CPs was inside of a cave, and when they say “inside a cave” they meant really inside the cave.  We first gave it a cursory look, didn’t see the flag and moved on.  Only to discover minutes later that the flag was in there, just tucked way in the back.

By the time we cleared this section and transitioned to bike, Pangea, FLX Adventures, Canyoneros, and Wet Feet AR had already left on bike.

Bike 1

Let me introduce you to Quadzilla, I mean Erik Wise the race director.

Erik Wise

He likes to run around in his underwear, maybe it has something to do with his days in the Navy.  I don’t know.  But I do know that he likes biking, a lot.  And any race he puts together will have plenty of it.  For this section, we were to bike to the Hinson Conservation Area, collect a few checkpoints on foot and then bike back to Merritt’s Mill Pond.  As we started the bike section, we passed Wet Feet AR and soon caught up with FLX Adventures who were looking for BP2 – NW corner of Chester Rd. & Old Spanish Trail.

After playing Brer Rabbit for 20 minutes, we finally found the checkpoint on the SW corner.  North corner…South corner…whatever.  Who uses their stinkin’ clue sheet anyway.

Sometime during that long, dark bike ride, we met up with the Canyoneros and started a pace line with them.  They ended up falling back for some reason, and when we looked back to see where they were, we heard this snarling, barking and crashing through the woods.  I assumed that it was just a couple of frenzied dogs running out to the end of their fence line.  But once I heard claws hit asphalt, I wet my pants a little and hit turbo.  There is nothing worse than pedaling your ass off and hearing crazed dogs gaining on you.  About the time I got to the fifth line of the Lord’s Prayer, I could hear them backing off.  We were worried for the Canyoneros since they were behind us, but they said by the time they ran into the dogs they were on the side of the road panting their lungs out.

Bwahahaha! I think we made one of them pee their pants!

We finally rolled into the Hinson Conservation Area with FLX Adventures and after transposing the checkpoint locations from a master map to our map, we headed off on the trek.  While Ron’s group decided to attack the trek going south, we took the northern route.

It was dark and we had a hard time locating the karst window (TP5).  What’s a karst window you ask?  Yeah, we wondered the same thing until we saw this huge hole in the ground with an orange flag at the bottom of it.

Canyoneros - Karst Window
Canyoneros – Karst Window

This section seemed to take a really long time and I felt that we were floundering.  There didn’t seem to be anything we could do to speed things up and I could feel our 3rd place standing floating away.

We finally emerged from the woods, having cleared the section and as soon as we reached the transition area to hand in our punch card, FLX Adventures emerged from the opposite woods.  It was crazy to think we went in at the same time, took totally opposite directions, never saw or passed each other, and yet finished the section at exactly the same time.  Crazy I know!

We now had 4 CPs left to collect on our way back to Merritt’s Mill Pond to start Boat 1, and it was only 7 hours into the race.

Boat 1

Merritt’s Mill Pond is absolutely stunning.

Did I mention it was stunning.  Not kinda cool, but absolutely stunning.  We arrived about the same time as FLX Adventures and ended up circling the mill pond with them.  I wish that we had some awesome videos or pictures, but we were slackers on this section and didn’t take any.  Just imagine pure awesomeness in a canoe and you get the idea.  Yeah, just like in the photo below!

Canoe Badassery

Bike 2

Back on the bikes, we tried in vain to chase down Pangea, who we hadn’t seen since the beginning of the race.  This leg was a slog, with long dirt roads and sweltering heat.

We struggled with BP14 (Oak in swamp south side), but after searching both the south and north sides of the swamp, Todd stopped a passing truck and the local told us that the landowner had removed the flag.  Time wasted.

We continued our chase of Pangea, rattling our brains out on the washboard dirt roads.  At one point Todd had a slow-motion crash and laid in the dirt like a flipped turtle with his bike on top of him.  Sorry for laughing dude, it was funny.

washboard-roads

One of the last checkpoints was in an abandoned church.  If you want to freak yourself out, head out to Parramore, Florida: A Real Florida Ghost Town, and crawl around an abandoned church.  Dead flowers and religious artifacts in a decaying building, there was no way I was heading in there alone.  “Hey Todd, why don’t you be a good pal and go in and grab that checkpoint while I stay out here and look at the maps?”  Yeah, he wasn’t buying it either.

Cavern’s Trek

We made it to the Marianna Cavern’s State Park at 6:30PM, an hour before the time cutoff.  18 hours into the race and so far we were clearing the course.  Unfortunately, the cavern’s trek was the start of the breakdown.

caverns-state-park

As the sun was fading, we started off on the Fence Line Trail, a 3 mile loop with a few CPs on it.  After clearing this section, we headed off to the Sink Hole trail where CP25 led us to a bonus CP, 600 meters into the woods on a direct bearing.  After finding the bonus CP, it pointed us to a second bonus CP another 600 meters into the woods on a direct bearing.  I was physically fading fast and all we could think about was the other teams skipping these far out CPs in exchange for collecting more points on the paddle and the Bellamy Foot Section at the end of the paddle.  We decided to skip the second bonus CP and head to the Cavern Trail where there was a greater concentration of points to be collected.

By the time we made it to the Tunnel Cave, I could feel myself really struggling.  We hit the bathroom and I splashed water on my face to recover.  It didn’t work and we decided to crash for 15 minutes on some benches.  Todd and Ana were snoring in seconds, but I couldn’t get any rest.  We soon pressed on.

Ana had to carry my pack and hers as we struggled to clear this section.  I was pretty useless by this point and Todd and Ana had to do all the work.  We made another tactical decision to drop a far out CP to a hidden cave with the hope of making the paddle and the other foot section.  We were sure other teams had moved on long ago.

I stripped down to spandex shorts and running shoes, trying to cool off and stay in the race.  Let me tell you, ain’t nothing pretty about a shirtless man in spandex shorts.

We made it back to the Caverns TA and found Junos from FLX Adventures recuperating from dehydration…it seems the heat had affected a number of racers.  I tried to eat and drink, but couldn’t stomach anything.  I told the team I needed to rest for 45 minutes and then we could figure out our next move.

Cavern Boat

At the Caverns TA, we learned that all of the other teams were still out on the trek portion, and no teams had gone out on the paddle yet.  That was a frustrating blow, since we gave up 2 controls thinking the other teams had pressed ahead.  But that’s part of Adventure Racing, making those tactical decisions in an attempt to maximize points.

Pangea came through the TA, and decided to head out on the paddle to pick up a few points.  I was still passed out on the ground trying to recover.  When 12 Chunky Layers passed through the TA and started heading out on the paddle, I got up and we strategized about our next move.  We could either do a short paddle and hope to collect 3-4 points, do the last bike section of 45-60 miles to collect 6 points, or just bike to the finish and go with what we had.

With the hope of an easy paddle, we set out on the Cavern Boat section…we were idiots.

state-park2

We soon found out that the water level was down 3-5 feet and the river was filled with downed trees.  We picked up one checkpoint and struggled with multiple portages before abandoning all hope of collecting any more.  We did find the second bonus CP from the Cavern’s Trek section, but that wouldn’t help us any.

We decided to turn back and ran into Pangea along the way back to the boat take out.  We weren’t sure how many CPs they had collected but we knew that they would kill us on the final bike section, so we didn’t try to chase them down.

Finish

From the Cavern’s TA, we decided to just bike it in.  The bike points were too far away and my butt couldn’t handle another 45 mile bike ride.  I already felt like someone had been spanking my ass all night, and not in the fun 50 Shades of Gray kinda way.

We pulled into the Finish after 34 hours and 28 minutes of racing.  40 minutes later Pangea rolled in, having collected 1 bike CP along the way.  At the closing ceremonies, we were surprisingly announced as the winner, but a couple of days later the count was re-tallied and we discovered that we had actually come in 2nd place…from 1st place to 1st loser.

steve-harvey

I was totally frustrated with myself knowing that I had let the team down and lost the race for us.  A few days after the race, I texted those sentiments to Todd and his reply was, “I race to be a better me, meet great people, and push the possible, not just to win.  I accomplished all that in this race.  Could have been one of the most challenging I’ve done.”

Well said my friend, I couldn’t have phrased it any better!  Thanks for racing with us and being a great teammate.  To be able to race with someone for 36Hrs and laugh throughout the whole damn thing is awesome.  You’re rock solid and we look forward to more races with you and Broccoli #2.

img_2656

As far as losing.  There’s no better team to lose to than Greg, May-Li, Jake and Allen from Pangea.  They are an amazing group of tough, seasoned racers and some of the friendliest competitors out there.  Good luck at Nationals!

Pangea coming off the canoe section

A big thanks to Erik, Jeanette, and Craig for putting on an amazing race.  Cheers to all those who we competed against, it was a great time and we’ll see you out there soon!  And special thanks to our outstanding sponsors whose products pull us through:

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Earth Day Adventure Race

How do you prepare for 6 hours of canoeing followed by a 4 hour bike ride.  Pretty easy actually.  Just drop your shorts, sit your bare ass on your driveway, and have your teammate grab you by the ankles and drag you for 30 feet or so.  I stand here writing this, not wanting to sit on anything for the next week.

Butt, enough with the training, let’s get down to the fun stuff. (See what I did there?  Yep, only the best from yours truly)

Maps, instructions and all the other goodies needed to follow along:

Map 1 Map 2 / Map 3 / Map 4 / Passport

Santa Fe O-Course / Passport

Ft. White O-Course / Passport

Foot 1

Ana’s knee has been bothering her since Sea to Sea, so I teamed up with Broccoli Covered Powder Babies for this race.  I registered as a solo, but we would really be running this as a 3-person team.  I didn’t want to be responsible for DQ’ing Broccoli, if I had to fall out for some reason.  Anyway, the Earth Day Adventure Race started at 6PM from the River Rise Preserve State Park and leading from the very start was Good Nuf.  They tore out of the TA like Road Runner from those old Looney Tunes cartoons, you know the ones where the road runner is going so fast that the road flies up in the air behind him.  Yeah, it was pretty much like that.  I think I even heard a faint “Beep Beep” in the distance.

Since we couldn’t go off trail for this section, due to park rules, this was pretty much follow-the-leader and we hit all the CPs without issue.

Boat 1:

Ah, the beginning of the boat section…I remember it fondly.  There I was, staring at the beautiful Santa Fe river and my fiberglass canoe seat, anticipating how intimately connected we would become over the next 3.5 hours.

Stephen provided the motor in the front, Todd navigated from the middle, and I flung buckets of water on top of their heads for hours from the rear.  Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

It was nighttime when we paddled down to CP10 at Blue Springs Park.  As we struggled against the spring’s current, our headlamps illuminated an aqua-colored pool of the clearest waters I’ve seen.  It was absolutely stunning.

Our next checkpoint, CP11, was a gauging station just east of Ginnie Springs.  We actually nailed the navigation to it and saw a tall piece of wood sticking out of the water.  But, we didn’t see any numbers on it and thought that perhaps the gauging station was little further downstream.  We paddled a little further until we ran into some drunk locals hanging out at Ginnie Springs.

Todd yells across the river, “Have you seen a gauging station around here?”

Y’all lookin’ for a PlayStation?

No, a gauging station!

Todd, they wouldn’t know a gauging station if their 6-pack was hanging from it.

Up river we paddled, back to our original location, where two other teams were marking the level of the Santa Fe river.  Come to find out the numbers were on the back of the board.  Oh well.

Cruising past Ginnie Springs was interesting, part campground, part Rave, part spring break…there was a dude wearing a light suit and people dancing around with glow sticks.  If you’re looking for rednecks, drunk women, beer guzzling and loud music, then Ginnie Springs is your place…Todd was in Nirvana and once Stephen and I wrestled him to the floor of the canoe and tied him to his seat, we commenced paddling down the Santa Fe.  It was straight out of Greek mythology were they tied Odysseus to the mast so that he could withstand the Sirens’ call.

Foot 2:

We arrived at the Santa Fe TA after 3.5 hrs of paddling and began our first orienteering section.

I think we were in 4th place by this time with DeChunkers right in front of us.  The Foot section map shows a beautifully outlined trail following the river.  Some people say there was a trail, some people say there wasn’t.  We fell into the “wasn’t” category.

Foot2

You can see our track above.  We started with CP1 then a straight south bushwhack to CP6.  From their, straight east to CP2.  We tried to pick up CP5 on the way, which was silly since we were going due east and about 150m too far north to see it.  From CP2, it was straight bearing shots to CP3, then CP4.  Then back up to CP2 to attack CP5.  All this time we kept running into DeChunkers.  They’re like freakin’ Space Ghost.  Here we are in the dark searching for a CP thinking there is no one around and all of a sudden, there they are, at the control ahead of us, as if they could materialize out of thin air.  “Hey DeChunkers you want to work together on the next…hey wait…where’d they go!”  Spppaaaacccceeeee GGGGhhhhhoooossstttt!

We struggled on CP7, having no clear attack point, and no clear trail.  Eventually, by wandering around,  working from the river bend and triangulating off of headlamps, we found it and beat feet to the TA where DeChunkers were once again just ahead of us.

Boat 2

One hour of boating from Santa Fe TA to Tudeen TA with no CPs along the way in the middle of the night.  About as exciting as it sounds.  I’m kidding of course.  It was a really nice paddle and the blisters were forming beautifully on my posterior.

Foot 3

We  arrived at Foot 3 slightly in front of DeChunkers.  I think we were now in 1st place by a good 15 seconds or so.  I don’t know what happened to Todd and Stephen on this section, but once we hit it, they turned into a pair of bloodhounds.

My navigation wasn’t all that great, but man you put those two within 50 yards of a CP and they would sniff it out.  As we were heading to a CP, I’d say something like, “Should be right about here.” and then I’d here “Got it!” and off we’d trot to the next CP.  There’s not much more to say on this section, they were bad ass and I was along for the ride.

Boat 3

Transitioning to the boat, we knew we were in 1st, but had no idea what kind of lead we had on any team.  The race had been really close from the beginning and there were some fast teams out there.  So, we got on the water as quickly as we could for a final 2 hour paddle with one CP along the way.

Some people like 3 in a boat…I say they’re wacko.  I hate it.  I feel like I’m on the verge of capsizing with every paddle stroke and my butt is trying to attach itself to the seat like a sucker fish so that we don’t fling ourselves into the water.  We found the sole CP without issue and made it to the final transition area.

Yep, love this pic!  Middle of the night, headlamps on, rockin the USARA jacket.

Bike 1

Can you believe it, there’s actually a bike section in this race.  We hit the final TA knowing that we had some of the fastest bike teams right on our tail and a 4+ hr ride ahead.  Talk about feeling the pressure.

We knew our navigation had to be spot on if we were going to win this thing, so we decided to screw up the first CP.  When the clue says, “Boat Ramp” and you see a sign on the road that says Boat Ramp –>, you gotta take that turn, even if its 1500 meters too soon.  It’s a really good way to waste 15 minutes and get the adrenal glands pumping.

Once we fixed that issue, we formed a pace line and hit the rest of the CPs without much issue until the second to last CP.

We’re racing down sandy horse trails less than 30 minutes away from winning this 18Hr race, knowing that we have speed freak teams behind us and I can’t find the stupid westbound trail that CP24 is on.  Thank god Stephen and Todd were there to sort it all out.  I got turned around on an unmarked westbound trail and couldn’t make sense of where I was.  After studying the map, they got us pointed on the right trail and we raced off to the finish.

Final

And with that, we took our first win of the season.  Although I tried to keep the trophy, Stephen said he had a special place for it and wouldn’t let it go.

As always Craig and FLXAdventures put on another excellent race.  I always look forward to Craig’s races as he takes the time to find really interesting areas with great history.  Glad to see all of our adventure racing friends out there again.  A big thanks to Broccoli Covered Powder Babies for letting me race with you guys.  Y’all are awesome and I always have a blast racing with you guys.  I only wish that Ana could have been there racing as well, she always adds to the fun plus she let’s me drink her beer.

This was primarily a night race with heavy paddling and I relied heavily on my Epic paddle, Lupine lights, and KanPas compasses.  I’ll be writing a review of my Lupine light in the next week or so, but let me say they are AWESOME!

 

KanPas Compass Review

KanPas MTB-43-F

Sometimes you spend a lot of money on a piece of kit and it turns out to be a piece of junk.  Other times you spend a little bit of money and find some real treasures.  KanPas compass is one of those unknown treasures for orienteers and adventure racers!

P1020712

I’ve been considering getting a compass for my bike map board for some time, but I’ve held back due to cost and the fact that I have about 8 compasses already.  Trying to justify an additional compass purchase gets harder each time.  But, when I came across the KanPas Map Board Clip Compass at 38 bucks, I had to give it a try.  In the past, I’ve used a wrist compass to aid in bike navigation, but keeping a firm grip on both handlebars is usually a wise move for me.  Plus, who doesn’t like new gear?

P1020704

After 75 hours of solid racing at the Sea to Sea, many of those hours spent intimately connected to a bike seat, I can tell you that the KanPas Map Board Clip Compass quickly became one of my favorite new gear items.  It is fast, stable and very easy to read.

The needle is very powerful and as I rode over a bridge that had small metal plates on the ground, I could watch the needle deflect every time.  Just amazing!

My search for a great MTBO compass is over!  I have no intentions of using anything else while bike orienteering.  The clip felt strong and attached firmly to the map board.  It never felt weak or likely to fall off.  I know some people like to put a baseplate compass in their map case, attached to their map board.  But, I like the freedom of being able to move the compass around when I needed to uncover portions of the map.

I do have one small suggestion on improvements for this compass and I’ll try to illustrate in the picture below.  As you can see, the top clip arm is blunt and can easily catch on the map board, especially if you have multiple maps on the board.

P1020719

I think if the top clip arm was extended and beveled (see the red outline) it would make for the perfect map board compass.  While trail riding, I don’t want to fight getting the compass onto the map board.  Also, because there is a slight gap between the base plate and the top clip arm, maps can get caught in between.

P1020719_v2

These are relatively minor complaints on an otherwise excellent compass.

KanPas MA-43-FS

The same strong, fast and stable needle used for the bike compass is also used for the thumb compass.  I was able to try out the thumb compass while orienteering with my family at Oak Mountain State Park permanent orienteering course.

P1020454

If you’ve never been to Oak Mountain, and live in the area, it is well worth the visit.  The terrain is rugged and the permanent course is a lot of fun.  We’ve recently completed the permanent amateur course and advanced course.  All of the checkpoints are properly marked and still exist.

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During this visit, I wanted my sons to learn more about orienteering, and they both did a great job picking routes and using the compass.

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There are 3 different styles of thumb compass: rainbow, degree, and clear.  I chose the degree style.  As we raced over mountainous terrain, I found the needle to be extremely fast, stable and accurate.  I’ve been using the Moscompass thumb compass, but I like the KanPas thumb compass better because of its quick, high-visibility needle.  The KanPas thumb plate is very durable and fits well in my hand.  I really liked the well-defined markings on the plate, showing 100m increments on a 1:10k scale O-map.

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So far, I’ve been extremely happy with KanPas compasses and currently use the following:

They all use the same compass needle, so you can expect the same high-speed, stable performance.  The cost of the compasses are reasonable, but shipping directly from KanPas can be expensive.

Here’s a quick video showing you the speed and stability of the 43 needle:

KanPas is currently working on a new design, the MA-45-F, and I am very excited to try it out once it’s available.

If you have any questions about KanPas compasses, drop me a comment or email.  Or better yet, stop by any event we’re at and I’ll be more than happy to let you check them out!

2016 Sea to Sea 72Hr Adventure Race

Starting on 3/3/16, you can track Team Disoriented and all the other teams participating in the 2016 Florida Sea to Sea 72Hr Adventure Race here:

http://trackleaders.com/s2s16

A big thank you to Klymit, Skratch Labs, Lupine Lights North America, Geigerrig, and KanPas for helping us get ready for this adventure!

More information about the race can be found here: http://flxadventures.com/the-florida-sea-to-sea-2016/

Pictures will be posted in real time using the Gemspots app and can be viewed here: http://www.gemspots.com/spot/view/9114d